This ground-breaking photographic collaboration between an artist and Kew botanists hits all the right buttons: extraordinary pictures, dazzling colours and bold graphics.
Evolutionary adaptation has allowed plants to survive and thrive in remarkably specific ecological niches but much of their reproductive innovation was invisible to the naked eye. A scanning electron microscope can now reveal, at high resolution, the minutest details of very small objects, though only in black and white.
Long hours of painstaking hand-colouring were therefore required and the results literally explode off the page. Under magnification, tiny pin-heads of pollen and strangely sculpted stars and spines become works of artistic beauty. The seed of the rosebay willowherb, decorated with extended straggly hairs, looks like a torpedo as it nears its target and the spiky orange fruit of the wild carrot resembles the impact that would follow. A cross-section through a kumquat seed could easily be mistaken for a freshly-made apple pie while the giant capsule of a nato mangrove seems to enclose a furry embryonic rodent.
This is pollen, spores, seeds and fruit as you have never seen before – accompanied by an accessible and scientifically accurate text.
WONDERS OF THE PLANT KINGDOM: A Microcosm Revealed by Wolfgang Stuppy, Rob Kesseler and Madeline Harley; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; £19.99 (paperback)
This review was published in the August 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine